When I first conceived of this series last year, I had many topics I was planning to introduce. When we began this series in January, the same was true. These topics related to changes in our culture over the past several years – some good, some not. And many of those changes are still in play, and gaining steam while we focus on this pandemic. But obviously the major change which affected all of us, and seemingly that impact occurred in an instant, is best known as COVID-19.
This virus has come upon us quickly, has disrupted us beyond imagination, caused major illness and tens of thousands of deaths, wrecked our economy, closed businesses, cost millions of people their jobs, closed schools, and much, much more. In other words, to repeat what I said a moment ago, we have experienced major change.
We could not have conceived any of this six months ago. But none of this caught God off guard. The world has changed drastically, but God has not changed at all. The title of this series is Constant in a World of Change. That was true about God when I conceived of the series. It was true of God when the novel coronavirus began to impact the lives of millions. That fact remains true today. And God will still be the same tomorrow and for every tomorrow’s tomorrow.
Two verses make this truth known to us as plainly as can be. Malachi 3.6 says, “For I the Lord do not change.” And Hebrews 13.8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Whether your primary concern right now is COVID-19 or some other matter, two things are certain – life constantly changes and God does not.
And that brings us to the Apostles’ Creed. As I have said from the first message, the Creed is not what we worship. The Creed is not what is most dear. God is to be the focus of our lives and our worship. The Creed is not even the most important writing about God – the Bible is. But the Creed is a way to capture the fundamental beliefs of our faith, particularly of the New Testament, in a short, and relatively simple approach.
The Apostles’ Creed is not the only creed. Many creeds and catechisms have been developed over the centuries. Others have developed articles of confession and statements of faith. But most every orthodox creed, catechism, confession, or statement has core elements in common. And those elements are found in the Apostles’ Creed.
The Apostles’ Creed is the most commonly confessed creed. It was named for the apostles because content can be traced back to what the apostles learned from Jesus and saw for themselves. The Reformers showed their respect for the Creed. Orthodox Christians down through the centuries have held these beliefs to be true, as do we today.
As I have mentioned before, the beliefs expressed in the Creed do not encapsulate everything a Christian believes. I also shared this quote from Albert Mohler’s book about the creed:
“All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.” (1)
But it is one thing to express a belief. It is another to live by it. And that is what this series was meant to be. It was meant to help us understand how each phrase in the Creed applies to our lives today so that we can not only have faith in the truth of the statements, but so that we can act on those truths in living our lives day by day.
In other words, to understand the Apostles’ Creed correctly, is to acknowledge the insufficiency of our faith until we are ready to cry out like the father in Mark 9, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9.23-24).
So, let me conclude this series with the same basic thoughts I shared to introduce it. I will do that by reminding us of two answers to the question:
Why Do We Need A Creed?
Read Jude 3-4
A Creed Allows Us to Hold on to SOMETHING
We all cling to something. Just as a small child has a favorite stuffed animal or maybe a blanket, or even a pacifier, we all have something or perhaps someone. Having that something or someone close allows us to feel like our world is ok, even when we know it is not. That someone or something is stability. Security.
But most people find that security in items or even people that will soon be gone. The child outgrows the blanket and eventually the stuffed animal and toy as well. As adults, we discard what was once considered worthy – including sometimes our friends and family.
But we never forget. In fact, regardless of your age, you can probably remember an item or two from your childhood that brought you security. You probably remember your best friend whom you swore you would never lose touch. But most of us have and/or will. Why? Because we change. And what is considered valuable and helpful today does not always maintain that value over time.
In Jude 3, Jude implores his readers to contend for the faith. He is saying that they should not only hold onto what they have learned, they also need to fight for it. Others have come in disregard of the truth and perverted the message of hope God has given. What Jude is saying is that there is something worth holding tight. That something is the truth of Jesus. That something is the stories of God that have been passed down for ages. That is worthy of holding. We all will hold onto something, but we need to let the truth of God hold onto us as well.
We need to let God’s truth get deep within us. Sure, a creed is just a series of words. But words have meaning. Again, we cannot place any creed on par with the Bible because the Bible was fully inspired by God. But anything that helps us to know the core truths of the Bible without compromising those truths, is worth holding onto when we need that stability and security. The words do not replace the Bible, but they do point to it, and thus a creed can have great value to point us to the true stability and security we seek.
A Creed Allows US to Hold on to Something
It is one thing to have a belief; it is another to share it with others. Earlier this year, we saw the Chiefs win a Super Bowl. People of all walks of life bonded over watching a football team win a game. People who were young and old, rich or poor, black or white or any other color, professional or a tradesman, etc. rallied together to root for, then celebrate a championship. That shared hope of a championship created bonds for a short time.
In Jude 3, Jude wrote to a group of people about what has been delivered to the saints (which includes his audience). His appeal is not to one, but to many. He needed them to stand strong together, to fight together, to encourage one another in order that they could overcome the crowd trying to disrupt the true message of God. The group of deceivers was united to be disruptive, and Jude was exhorting his readers to be unified to refute the “certain people” as Jude calls this other group in verse 4.
Consider the strength of the bond that could happen if what we believe and what someone else believes about God is coincides. When we ask someone what they believe, we may be looking for a few key words, but we do not have them recite, or even read, the Bible to us. No, we focus on a few key facts to determine if we share the same beliefs. And that is what the Apostles’ Creed does for us. The Creed allows us to know people down the road, across the town, in another city, and around the world who share the same basic beliefs. The same is true of people throughout history. The fact that millions before us, and today believe the same should provide comfort and even assurance that we are not alone in our understanding. The Creed is not about what I believe or you believe. It is about what we believe. Yes, the words are, “I believe,” because a person’s faith is individual in one sense, but the essence of faith is to be understood and lived within community. Faith is about us. Our ability to be in direct community with one another has been challenged during this current pandemic, but holding a common belief in a constant God, has been what has helped many people through this challenging time.
As I turn work toward the conclusion of this message, and thus the series, I need to mention one more word in the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed does not just contain a series of belief statements (20 truths depending upon how you count them). It ends with a single word – amen.
Therefore, these statements could be considered more than pithy statements about biblical truths; rather, we could consider it a prayer.
If we think of it as a prayer, we must understand the word amen. The word means “let it be” or “may it be so.” With that thought in mind, consider what our reciting of the Creed means. We confess a series of beliefs and then conclude with Amen, which effectively is saying, “may it be so.” In other words, after stating the truths of the Creed, we are saying “let our confessions be truly representative of what we believe.”
This idea takes me back to the man, the father, in Mark 9 who wants his boy to be healed. When confronted by Jesus about belief, the man cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (See Mark 9.14-29 for the story, and particularly verse 24 for the statement.)
The Apostles’ Creed was not developed yet, but if it had been, we could equate this man’s statement to knowing the Creed in general, maybe even having it memorized. But being able to read or memorize words does not make it real. This man wanted his faith to be real.
You and I should want no less. It is not enough to know. We must believe. And belief is always – ALWAYS – followed by action. We can say a lot of things, but we do what we truly believe to be true and important.
For us, at this time, a part of acting on our belief is to take the words of Jude as a charge to pass on the truths of God to the next generation. We are now the ones who must contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. That faith is, in part, represented by the Apostles’ Creed. That faith has been passed down for centuries, and now it is our turn to pass it onward. People are currently trying to “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). So what will we do?
Well, whatever we do, it must include acting on the belief we have in a God who does not change…a God who is still in control…a God who gave us His Word…and whose message is summarized in what we know as the Apostles’ Creed.
THE APOSTLES’ CREED
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
And sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
Whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic Church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting.
Amen. (MAY IT BE SO)
(1) Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity In An Age Of Counterfeits, Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019, xvi.